Venturing off the main road in Wanaka, we snake down a long private driveway and then up, up, up the mountain under a glorious buttery yellow canopy of trees. First impressions leave me open-mouthed. Mahu Whenua – the Ridgeline Homestead and Eco Sanctuary is one of the newer members of the Luxury Lodges of New Zealand network. The sanctuary was recently transformed from a private residence to boutique luxury accommodation and that personal touch really seeps into the bones of the house.
Simply put, it feels like home, or rather what home would feel like if you were a multi-millionaire who decided to build your rustic palace atop the picturesque and delightfully private mountain ranges of Lake Wanaka amid 55,000 ha of protected land. Just slightly smaller than Singapore and consisting of four sheep stations, Mahu Whenua is the largest area of private land in New Zealand to be protected under a Queen Elizabeth II (QEII) National Trust Covenant.
Place of healing
Mahu Whenua quite literally means ‘healing the land’ and that is exactly what the owners are doing here, helping to regenerate and restore this previously over-farmed land combining four sheep stations through both extensive plant regeneration and native bird-breeding programs.
Fire and ice
Once inside, homemade lemon cocktails using the best ingredients from the area, including a locally made gin from the Cardrona Distillery down the road, are served by the fire on this cool autumn night. Our mob lounges around the living room, with the fire, flickering candles (also locally made in Wanaka) and the mesmerising views over the vast, green Tolkienesque landscape.
Outside, the mirror-like Lake Wanaka inspiring a sense of tranquillity. As the sun goes down, the lodge’s horses slowly drift into their warm stables for the night, looking as contented as we feel. There just isn’t a bad seat to be had in the entire house.
Lavish and luxurious
After an exquisite feast with matching wines and a competitive pool table battle down in the spacious downstairs games room, we too drift into our rooms. There are only four suites – the Kereru Suite, the Tui Suite, the Kimberley Suite of the Weka and Pukeko Cottage Suites, catering to a maximum of 12 guests. I am in the Kereru, which is lavish and luxurious but not pretentious.
Although many of the resort’s guests dip a toe in the pool, I opt for a bath fit for a queen and bundle up in a cosy robe. Bunkered down in my room, I sip on a cup of chamomile tea and recline by the window-side nook, before moving outside to the wrap-around balcony.
What a joy to watch the last of the sun’s rays caressing the lake and mountain ranges before the stars start popping up in the velvety sky and I start thinking about what to do tomorrow.
As the property is ideal for lovers of the outdoors, there is ample choice, with hiking trails, horse riding, mountain biking and yoga. There are also conservation tours to learn about the native plant and bird projects under way and sustainable farming practices being undertaken on the property. Or I could just spend time in my suite, in the media room, in the magnificent lounge room or in the outdoor lounge area complete with fireplace, heated pool and Jacuzzi.
The healing is not just happening to the land, as by the time I leave, I feel Mahu Whenua has worked its magic on me as well, on mind, body and soul.
Air New Zealand flies to Queenstown. airnewzealand.com.au
Tourism New Zealand: newzealand.com